This past Sunday Pope Francis issued a worldwide call for prayer after leading the people in St. Peter’s Square in the recitation of the Angelus. “I follow with concern the news from the region of the Horn of Africa, particularly from Ethiopia, shaken by a conflict which has lasted for more than a year and which has claimed numerous victims and caused a serious humanitarian crisis. I invite everyone to pray for those peoples so sorely tried, and I renew my appeal for fraternal harmony and the peaceful path of dialogue to prevail.”
La Croix International reported, “War broke out in the mountainous area [of Tigray] last November between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front that controls the region. The violence in northern Ethiopia has triggered a severe humanitarian crisis with millions of displaced persons and accusations of rights violations. More than 2.5 million civilians have been displaced, and thousands have been killed in the year-long conflict between the Ethiopian government [aided by the armed forces of neighboring Eritrea] and the rebel Tigrayan forces, according to the United Nations.”
Clergy, both Catholic and Orthodox, have also been harmed during this conflict. Fides News Agency reported Tuesday that there was “a raid carried out on November 5 by government military forces in a center in Gottera (Addis Ababa) run by the Salesians of Don Bosco, involving 17 members among priests, religious Brothers and employees in the center, arrested for no reason and taken to an unknown place. In a situation marked by suffering, poverty, fear and absolute insecurity, all Christians in Ethiopia hope that the pope’s appeal, the intervention of the African Union and that of the American envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, will help calm the situation.”
Father Mussie Zerai, president of the Habeisha agency, told Fides, “We still do not understand what the reasons for such a serious act are: Why are priests arrested who exercise their educational mandate, especially in a center that has always been committed to doing good, which has been visited by many children for years and where street children are rehabilitated? Provincial priests, deacons, kitchen staff have been arrested, we know of raids and searches in other religious houses.”
Fides reported that the Salesian order has “a significant presence in five regions of the country. One of them is in Tigray Province, the center of a conflict that has turned into one of the worst wars in the world in just a year, with countless refugees and almost the entire population in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. As the information website Africa ExPress reports, police officers broke into the Orthodox Christian cathedral in Addis Ababa and forced priests and monks from the Tigray region to interrupt the religious services. The clergy were then loaded into security vans and taken to unidentified locations.”
We need to pray that these innocent people be released as soon as possible, that the warring sides lay down their arms, and that true justice and mercy come to Ethiopia. Those of us of a certain age remember the songs “Do they know it’s Christmas?” and “We are the world,” which were used to raise funds to help the people of Ethiopia during a severe famine in the 1980s. Now a man-made crisis, that of war, is taking so many lives and threatening the futures of millions.
We also need to pray for the souls of the dead, there and around the world. In this month of November we Catholics are mindful of our commitment to be united in love with the souls in Purgatory, as we, along with the saints in Heaven, pray for them, that one day we can all be at the banquet which the Heavenly Father has prepared for us.
It is always a shame (and a scandal for non-Christians, making it harder for them to believe in Jesus) when Christians kill others, especially when Christians fight other Christians. That has been something going on for almost two millennium and is what is going on in Ethiopia at the moment.
Instead of fighting, we need to heed Christ’s command to love. David Carvalho on page 13 of this edition of The Anchor describes well how we can approach others with love, instead of “war.”
We need to love God and neighbor now. As Christ has lovingly warned us, we don’t know the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come for us. Will He find us loving or warring?
St. John Paul II, in three weekly audience speeches given in July and August 1999, explained that Heaven is to be full of love for God and neighbor, while hell is the choice of those who do not love God and neighbor. The souls of Purgatory have imperfect love for both and are helped by the Church in Heaven and on Earth.
This past week the diocese lost two of its priests (as you can read on page 14), Father Conrad Salach, OFM Conv., died suddenly on October 30, while Father John “Jack” Andrews died on All Souls Day.
Father Conrad probably did not know that he was dying, but he did provide priest coverage for Mass at his parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Bedford, for the day after he died (he had not been feeling well). Father Andrews had been in declining health for a few years.
Father Timothy Goldrick preached at Father Andrews’ funeral Mass in Taunton and began by describing how the body of an emperor (Franz Joseph) of Austria-Hungary was not admitted by the friar guarding the imperial burial crypt until the military officer bringing the cadaver stopped referring to his imperial titles and just said that a brother sinner wanted to enter. Then the friar happily opened the doors.
Father Goldrick said that Father Andrews did not want the funeral to be about him, but about Jesus. Both Father Goldrick and Father Andrews’ sister quoted him as saying at his 50th anniversary of ordination that the priesthood turned out to be everything that he had expected and so much more.
Let us pray for the souls of these servants in God’s vineyard, while also praying for the souls of those thousands being killed this year through war and injustice around the world. May they meet in Christ’s peaceful Kingdom (and may we live more in accord with His love, too).